clarity

Assuming the Solution – The Great Time Waster - 12/3/19


Here are 3 customer service scenarios for a college IT department: A staff member calls in and says that they’re having trouble logging in.  The employee responds:  “I can reset your password for you.” A faculty member calls IT and says: “I need help showing a video during class Read more

Become a Best Practice - 11/26/19


When evaluating the service that our clients provide to their customers, we look at all sorts of things – from employee attitudes to knowledge, from service skills to procedures, systems, and technology.  We look at navigation to and within the facilities, and we look at layout and signage and Read more

Serve with Integrity - 11/19/19


I’ve been reading a book recently about a Charlotte-based service company, and the author of the book conveys the CEO’s perspective on management, culture, and serving customers. At the back of the book, the author noted the organization’s Core Values. They are honesty, integrity, fairness, and respect. I literally Read more

Bring Out the Best - 11/12/19


As a management consultant, oftentimes my job is to identify the key issues, determine the root causes, and provide solutions. We do a lot of strategy work, we conduct many research projects, and we train and train and train our clients. However, improvement usually involves pointing out what needs Read more

Know What You Don’t Know - 11/5/19


Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – yak, yak, yak.  In the social media world, there’s an awful lot of talk that goes on and a lot of opinions shared.  But sometimes those opinions are not based on any level of deep knowledge. Sometimes they are based on assumptions. In the world of Read more

Service, Sports, and Self-Control - 10/29/19


When I was growing up, I played a lot of golf. I practiced a lot, and I could score pretty well. However, when something went bad, when I hit a tee shot into the woods or dumped an iron shot into a lake, I would become unglued. Then every Read more

What it Means to Respect Someone’s Time - 10/22/19


Whether it is with a client when I realize that the meeting might go long, or possibly it’s in a workshop where I’m trying to end one conversation so we can move on to the next topic, there is a phrase I’ve used many times, and I mean it Read more

Be the Director of First Impressions - 10/15/19


Whether it’s in a hotel or in a coffee shop or a bank branch, first impressions mean a lot. First impressions mean “this is who we are” and “this is what you should expect.” First impressions mean “this is our definition of excellence” and “this is how much we Read more

People will Pay for Customer Service - 10/8/19


Sometimes all you need to read is the first paragraph in an article. Here’s the title from Business Insider: Amazon charges sellers as much as $5,000 a month for customer service if they want a guarantee that they'll be able to talk to a real person. The first paragraph reads: Amazon Read more

New Ways to Celebrate National Customer Service Week - 10/1/19


The week of October 7 is National Customer Service Week. No, this wasn’t another holiday invented by Hallmark, so you have to go to work. Hopefully that’s the good news! This week is typically thought of as a time to rejuvenate relationships with customers, to refocus your efforts on treating Read more

Assuming the Solution – The Great Time Waster – 12/3/19

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Here are 3 customer service scenarios for a college IT department:

  1. A staff member calls in and says that they’re having trouble logging in.  The employee responds:  “I can reset your password for you.
  2. A faculty member calls IT and says: “I need help showing a video during class next week; do you know Meredith?”  The employee says “Oh, I know Meredith; let me get you in touch with Career Development where she works.”
  3. The employee asks the staff person from the other department “do you know what the status is on that work order?”  The other individual responds “I’m trying to get to it as fast as I can; I’ll put a rush job on it for you.”

One reaction to these scenarios is that the person responding is being very proactive.  They are jumping on the request and coming up with a quick solution or next step. Unfortunately, these are conversations where assumptions took place, and each assumption was wrong.

In the first case, the login difficulty had nothing to do with the password.  In the second case, Meredith had worked with IT before and was suggesting that the faculty member contact IT for support.  In the third example, they weren’t looking for a rush on the work order.  They were seeking an update just to make sure it would be done when needed.

Many customer service people are so responsive and so willing to help that they can run to the next step to try to get the ball rolling and to resolve an issue.  But if that’s done before clarifying and confirming what that real issue may be, they may be solving a problem that doesn’t exist.  They may be taking action down one path without realizing they’re going in the wrong direction.

These are examples we saw at a University client years ago, and these are examples that we see in mystery shopping that we conduct for clients today.

Be proactive. Be responsive. Take action on behalf of the customer.  However, first make sure that you clearly understand what they’re seeking before you take that action.

Don’t assume the answer and waste your time and the customer’s time as well.

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Make it Crystal Clear – 5/21/19

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. And if the other person doesn’t understand what you’re conveying, they could have an expectation that’s unrealistic.

Noted below are 10 statements an employee might make to a customer. At face value, most may seem very typical and pretty clear:

  1. That won’t take long.
  2. The process is described on the website.
  3. You need to fill out a GARBA.
  4. You’ll hear back from us not too long after we receive the results.
  5. I need your ID.
  6. The first thing you need to do is to set an appointment.
  7. Just call any time if you need help.
  8. Call the main number, and we’ll get that for you.
  9. I’m going to transfer you (then the caller hears a click and rings).
  10. Once you send in a work order, the maintenance folks will be in touch and address it quickly.

So, what’s wrong with these? Here are 10 things to consider (the #s below correspond to the #s above):

  1. “Won’t take long” might be interpreted differently by different people – 1 hour to the customer v. 1 week to the employee.
  2. The website has many pages; be more specific; make it easy for the customer to find the specific page.
  3. What is a GARBA? Avoid acronyms whenever possible.
  4. How long is “not too long?” And when do you expect to receive the results? Both timeframes are unclear.
  5. A customer may have several ID’s. Which one is needed?
  6. The other process steps are not described.
  7. What number should the caller call and when?
  8. What’s the main number? How long will it take to “get that?”
  9. It’s not clear why the caller is being transferred, to whom, etc.
  10. It’s not clear how to send the order, who will respond to the customer, what “in touch” means, and what “quickly” means.

To effectively set or manage expectations, ensure you’re being as clear as the customer needs.

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Seek Confusion – 4/30/13 TOW

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Do you want to be a hero?

Employees get some of the greatest compliments, the most sincere thanks from customers and co-workers alike when they make the murky clear. When they make the unknown known. When they help the customer to set a clear path, overcoming their indecision.

In other words, when you take a customer who is confused, and you add clarity, those customers are usually so appreciative. They say “NOW I understand” or “Thank you so much for clearing that up!” or “That helps a lot!” When people are confused, they feel helpless, get frustrated, are embarrassed, and generally have a whole lot of negative emotions and thoughts that build-up inside (and often outside, too!).

So do you want to be a “Customer Service Hero?” Here’s a key – Seek Confusion.

Literally put out your radar for something specific – look for the confused customer. They are the one staring for an eternity at the office directory in the lobby. They are the one pausing in the hallway and looking around. They are literally scratching their head, looking all around a shelf or an office without selecting anything or going in a specific direction. They are typically walking more slowly and often meandering more than heading in a straight line.

On the phone? They’re pausing frequently, sounding unsure of what best phrase or words to use (I’m like this a lot myself when talking to an automotive service center – “I might need to have my brake pads…uh…rotors…a full brake job…well, tuned up…”). They may spend two minutes describing an issue instead of just asking for the department that addresses it…because they don’t know who they should be talking with about the topic.

One advantage most employees have over most customers is that the employee knows their products, processes, services, and policies SO MUCH better than customers. To be a Customer Service Hero, we need to put ourselves in a position to share that knowledge.

We need to look for signs of customers needing clarity and direction, and we need to proactively engage them.

We need to Seek Confusion.